Barrister calls for Leeding's hero status to be set aside

A DEFENCE barrister has asked a jury to set aside Detective Damian Leeding's hero status as an officer gunned down in the line of duty and question whether he acted lawfully.

Jeff Hunter, acting for murder accused Phillip Graeme Abell, said Det Leeding's decision to shoot was "rash, ill-considered, dangerous to the public and not reasonably necessary".

He suggested the 4.14 seconds it took for his client to exit the Pacific Pines Tavern until the muzzle flash from using his shotgun, in "instinctive" retaliation, was seen on CCTV, was not enough time for Det Leeding to yell the required commands and identify himself before opening fire.

Mr Hunter said Det Leeding's actions in parking out the front of the tavern and where he ran first, instead of securing the perimeter and waiting for further police back-up, dramatically increased his risk of engaging with an armed robber.

Det Leeding was shot while responding to an armed robbery on May 29, 2011. His life support was turned off two days later.

Mr Abell and Donna Lee McAvoy have pleaded guilty to the robbery and depriving people at the tavern of their liberty but not guilty to murdering Det Leeding.

Mr Hunter pointed to testimony from a senior sergeant with 29 years experience, who conceded he would have handled the situation differently even though he did not want to "speak ill of the dead".

He said his client had not delivered "a cold and calculated attack", rather acting in self-defence after Det Leeding fired first.

"When you look at the timelines, it is a real possibility that both men gave each other a fright and what happened was simply some sort of instinctive firing by Det Leeding at Mr Abell who instinctively fired back," he said.

"It wasn't some cold decision that money was more important than human life, it was just something that happened in the moment."

Mr Hunter said it was difficult to talk about Det Leeding's conduct because he had been "widely portrayed as a heroic man who was gunned down in the line of duty".

But he asked the jury to consider how they would feel if the officer did not die and instead hit a civilian in the head.

"Would you say he was a hero then? Would you say he was just doing his duty?" he asked

Justice James Douglas warned jurors they must forget how they feel about a cop being killed on the job when reaching a decision.

Justice Douglas will finish his summary on Monday before the jury retires to consider its verdict

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